Notes, quotes and an opinion or two…

Dak Prescott did not disappoint in his NFL debut. With the New York Giants “firing real bullets” — which is to say throwing everything they had at the rookie — Prescott completed 25 of 44 throws for 227 yards. He did not throw an interception. It wasn’t enough in a 20-19 loss to the New York Giants and Eli Manning.

Prescott showed the calm and poise we have come to expect from him in his NFL regular season debut — not that he was satisfied.

“There are some things I want back,” Prescott told reporters afterward. “Some plays I want to re-do, I guess you could say, but for the most part I felt like I prepared. The coaches did a good job. I think I did well for the most part. We just have to score touchdowns down there in the red zone. We were down there I think the first three drives of the game and we had to settle for field goals. That’s 21 points that you’d rather have instead of 9. Whatever that math is.”

His math is right. The difference in the game was Manning’s ability to get the ball to receivers in the end zone, which he did twice, while completing 19 of 27 passes for 207 yards with one interception.

“This is big,” Manning told reporters after presenting first-game head coach Bob McAdoo the game ball. “This is a big win for this team and for the guys who were here last year. Almost a year ago today we were in the same spot and had a chance to win and couldn’t pull it out. There were numerous ones after that that followed that were very similar.

“Just to know, hey, we can win these tight ones, is helpful,” Manning added. “We’re gonna get more like it, and there’ll be more tight games. And the great teams have got to be able to win most of them.”


Kudos to the Mississippi State marketing whiz who made the call to put up billboards all over Dallas in support of Prescott. Don’t know how much it cost but State reaped millions of dollars in publicity and goodwill — and not just in Dallas.


The New Orleans Saints, as the Cowboys, lost a game they easily could have won. Drew Brees threw for 423 yards, did not throw an interception and lost. The Oakland Raiders, boosted by rookie Jalen Richard’s 75-yard touchdown run, prevailed 35-34 in the Superdome.

Richard, an undrafted rookie out of Southern Miss who stands 5 feet, 8 inches short, carried just three times for 84 yards, caught two passes for another 11 yards and had a nice punt return negated by a penalty.

OK, so how many of you had Richard on your fantasy team?

Thought so. Not many people thought Richard would make the Raiders roster. Heck, I thought he was USM’s second best back last year. Richard rushed for 1,098 yards as a senior at USM, but shared time with Ito Smith who ran for 1,128 and averaged almost a yard more per carry.

“He’s such a great story,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said of Richard. “That young man came into camp as an undrafted rookie and just willed his way onto this football team.”

Of the 75-yard run, Richard told reporters, “It’s a feeling I’ll never forget. It’s what you dream of when you’re 5 or 6 years old.”


The big take-away from the college football weekend: Mississippi State found a quarterback to replace Prescott in a much-need 27-14 conquest of South Carolina. Nick Fitzgerald ran and passed for 373 yards total and, in general, looked like the guy who gives the Bulldogs the best chance to win.

There’s not really a whole lot to take from Ole Miss and Southern Miss victories over Wofford and Savannah State. Not sure how much Wofford prepared the Rebels for Saturday’s showdown with Alabama or how much Savannah State prepared USM for Troy.

Alabama is a 10-point favorite over Ole Miss, which seems high, and USM is a 12-point pick over Troy, which seems really high. There is no point spread yet for LSU-State probably because of Leonard Fournette’s injury issues.

LSU apparently found its quarterback in a 34-13 victory over Jacksonville State. Danny Etling came off the bench to give the Tigers a spark they hadn’t had with starter Brandon Harris. Etling, a transfer from Purdue, started as a freshman for the Boilermakers before losing his job as a sophomore.

For the record, I’d make LSU a 7-point pick over State.

Rick Cleveland is Mississippi Today’s sports columnist. Read his previous columns and his Sports Daily blog.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.